Islands of the Smokey Seas

Drenching rain, trying to come down as snow.

Drenching rain, trying to come down as snow.

March, April, and May can be the most vexing months especially during the last few years when nothing that was before seems to be happening now.  Last year we had our last snow on May 31st.  Now as I glance over at the window, instead of just rain plastering the window, I see it has changed to lumpy rain.  I guess you would call it sleet.  The rain has been doing the job of melting mounds and mounds of snow, and opening up the wild landscaping to the previous fall’s compressed, tan detritus.  It’s around 8:00 PM, so the temperature is most likely dropping.  It is blowing about 35 from the ESE with gusts to right around 50 right now.  There is very little visibility out in the bay or surrounding mountains.  Can’t even see the mountains.  Yesterday it was almost that “S” word that we don’t say out loud or in print, just in case we jinx the season.  This morning everything was frozen.  Now it is blowing like hell.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining.  If there is one thing you can say about weather in the Aleutians it is that it is never boring.  It keeps you on  your toes.  I should probably invest in a waterproof casing for my camera.  As it is, I have to decide when is too wet and wild to take the camera out.   How much time do I want to spend wiping it down when I come inside?  When you grow up in a place known as the birthplace of the winds, you learn to judge how much the wind is blowing by observing the environment.  The first thing you observe is that there is always wind.  White caps generally start when it is blowing 25.  You can see gusts coming by the way they darken the water….black water.  We all look intently for black water at either end of the runway when we are making an approach to land.  Black water at the end of the runway is very, very scary.   You know that when the gusts are picking up water off the sea, it is blowing at least 50.  When that happens we call them williwaws.

Williwaws

Williwaws

So while we wait to find what these next few months will bring us, I will just continue to be exhilarated by the weather.   Ah, yes.  I live in the birthplace of the winds; the islands of the smokey seas.

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Pet Peeve

I have a really silly pet peeve. Silly because there is absolutely nothing I can do to remedy the situation. And silly because it makes no difference if the situation is remedied. I’ve noticed, that when watching cooking shows, I can hardly tolerate it when a bowl is scraped inadequately, leaving tons of batter behind. I’m sure they do this because of the angle of the shot so that the viewer can see inside the bowl, but it drives me bonkers.

To Kill A Mockingbird

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The best $3.50 I ever spent.  This dog-eared copy of one of my favorite books of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird, was published on July 11, 1960.  It immediately hit the best seller lists.  Nell Harper Lee won a Pulitzer Prize for the book in 1961, and in 1962, an Academy Award winning film was completed.

This very humble book still captures new audiences all over the world, giving voice to relevant questions about morals and ethics, providing vivid examples of personal courage, and highlighting the fact that humanity can, and should, live in us all.  There are several books that I read over again.  To Kill a Mockingbird is one of them.  Harper Lee’s writing is so down to earth and simple. Perhaps the simplicity of her writing is what paints such vivid pictures for me.  I am sure that you all have had the pleasure of reading the book, but, if by chance you have not, I highly recommend that you do so before you kick the bucket.  You’ll never regret it.

She never wrote another book.   High on her list of reasons why was that she didn’t like all the hoopla involved in the publication.  Her other reason was that she said all she wanted to say, and she wasn’t going to say it again.  Well….it was pretty all encompassing.

Is that a Christmas cactus I see?

PFFTTTTT!!!

PFFTTTTT!!!

This is the corner.  It is a shake my head corner.  It is the throw the project into corner.  Center stage, we have the science fair project about hydraulics.  And off to the right we have a glimpse of the Dead Mau5 head project.  We have a grandson’s tossed hoodie, a husbands books and paperwork laying on the top of the couch and the arm of the chair.  We have unfolded afghans, tossed carelessly about.  The Dead Mau5 project has claimed my living room waste basket.  Everytime I go to toss something in it, I have to abort the action and go to the kitchen garbage container.  We have a nerf gun and a cardboard tube, because you never know when you are going to need one.  And we have to keep every pen and pencil that comes in the house because they certainly come in handy….especially when the ink has dried up.  Someone has conveniently tied one of my curtain sheers in a knot; it obviously was in the way.  Is it any wonder that I wasn’t aware that my Christmas cactus has bloomed for the second time this year?  Shaking my head.  What does your “corner” look like?  Post me some pictures so I can feel good.

Do Not Feed the Eagles

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Someone was feeding eagles yesterday.  I don’t know if it was my idiotic  neighbor who thinks it is his god given right to feed wildlife, or if it was accidental feeding from an offload of a fishing boat.  Or if someone cleaned out their freezer.  But someone was feeding the eagles yesterday.  This led to at least 3 hours of thumps on the roof, fights and squabbles over both food and advantageous perching, and eagles whizzing down the street at about head height.  And I’m not talking three or four eagles.  I am talking about seventy-five.  Very irritating…and dangerous.

Alaskan Light

The view from the end of my driveway

The view from the end of my driveway

I was on a regular routine.  Of waking up to a certain feeling of light.  A little before 8, right between astronomical and nautical twilight in Unalaska.  The sun is sitting about 12 to 18 degrees below the horizon.  Certainly my husband’s banging around with the coffee in the morning was always my first alarm.  Way before the butt crack of dawn, but I could readily go back to sleep, somehow, with him grinding coffee beans and banging, literally, the grinder on the counter top to get the fine grounds out of the lid.  So with the spring forward yesterday, it was totally disconcerting to wake up to very dark again.  In fact, this morning, it certainly wasn’t the nautical twilight waking me up, but my grandson, who is on spring break this week, saying “Grandma.  I’m here.”

Yesterday morning I remember saying to myself oh my god, how can I survive going back into the dark.  Then I go outside at 9:20 pm last evening and snap this photo of the view from the end of my driveway.  What am I complaining about?  I’m making up the light at the other end of the clock.

Happy International Women’s Day – Celebrate your feminine

Basketwoman by Unangan artist Gert Svarny

Basketwoman by Unangan artist Gert Svarny


In 1910 an International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed that every year in each country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands.  Thus International Women’s Day was born.

In my strong, matriarchal society of Unangan women in Unalaska, I have had many stellar examples upon which to base my life attitude.  My mother, Gert Svarny, continues the values and ethics that her mother Alice Hope instilled in her.  Even my younger sister and my own daughters have taught me a thing or two about strength and character.  I am lucky to have a public reference about my grandmother to show my children and grandchildren how devoted she was to her community, by the love shown her at her death.  In his book Moments Rightly Placed, author Ray Hudson writes:  Then on the afternoon of December 4, 1966, Alice Hope died in Washington state.  The next day a service for this deeply loved woman was held at Unalaska, and when her body arrived five days later,  Anfesia (Shapsnikoff) assisted Father Ishmael Gromoff in yet another service.  Anfesia stayed all night with her departed friend, in the company of the Hope children and grandchildren and friends, until the service at the church on December 11th.  Anfesia noted in her diary, “had Liturgy with Mrs. Hope’s body; after funeral service walked her up all the way.”  Carrying the coffin the length of the village from the church to the graveyard was an act of uncommon devotion.

Who is the woman, or women, in your life who have guided you on your path?  Gentlemen…this is a question for you also.